Grades 3-5 Tennessee

Common Good

This 3rd grade inquiry asks students to think about a challenging local public policy issue:  eminent domain.  The compelling question—“Was the Chickamauga Dam worth it?”—engages students in an examination of a historic eminent domain case study that happened right in their backyard.  The Chickamauga Dam was a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project — a result of FDR’s New Deal to improve the country’s infrastructure and to jump start the economy to pull the US out of the Great Depression.  But, in order to build the dam, developers had to use eminent domain which displaced people in the town of Old Harrison.  Students in this inquiry weigh the benefits and costs of public projects like the Chickamauga Dam and determine the impact of using eminent domain for the common good.


Compelling Question:

Was the Chickamauga Dam worth it?

Staging the Question:

Imagine that three students brought bags of M&Ms to class to eat at recess. None of the other students had a similar tasty treat. The teacher decides to take the candy and divide it evenly so that each student has a little bit of candy instead of just three. Discuss: Is that fair? Who benefits from the teacher’s decision? Who doesn’t benefit from the teacher’s decision?

Supporting Question What is eminent domain and common good?

Formative Task Create a class definition of eminent domain and describe how it impacts the common good.

Sources Source A: Definition of eminent domain.
Source B: Unintended Consequences: Eminent Domain Video, IzzitEDU, video.


Supporting Question Why was the Chickamauga Dam built?

Formative Task Annotate on a photograph of the Chickamauga Dam and include a caption about why the dam was built.

Sources Source A: Chickamauga Dam, Tennessee Valley Authority.
Source B: 75 years of the Chickamauga Dam: 1938, Chattanooga History.
Source C: Workers of the Chattanooga Dam Project, Chattanooga History.


Supporting Question What were the costs and benefits of building the Chickamauga Dam?

Formative Task Construct a class T-Chart and list the costs and benefits of building the Chickamauga Dam.

Sources Source A: The lost town of Old Harrison, WRBC, 2021.
Source B: Harrison, Tennessee: Hamilton County’s hidden Atlantis, News Channel 9, 2017.
*Students should also use sources from Supporting Question 2

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Was the Chickamauga Dam worth it? Construct an oral argument using the ‘taking a stand’ protocol and answer the compelling question--was the Chickamauga Dam worth it?

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Students ask a member of the local zoning board into class to discuss eminent domain cases that have impacted or will impact the community. Discuss the costs and benefits of eminent domain and determine whether students should take a stand in an upcoming case.